A trip for a cause
"When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them, we are enriched,” said Pope Francis, as quoted by Tripda on its website.
Tripda, a new carpooling platform in the Philippines, hopes to ease the traffic congestion during Pope Francis’ visit from January 15 to 19.
Timely promotions such as this one will be necessary as Tripda tries to encourage carpooling in the country. And for the duration of the papal visit, for every person who offers a ride or books a seat through its platform, Tripda will donate a school kit to a child in need through the Virlanie Foundation.
Tripda is backed by Rocket Internet and is led by Brazilian entrepreneur Erick Coser, who was part of the founding team that launched the firm in Brazil.
Coser said that Tripda had favorable conditions in Brazil because carpooling was already popular in the country. The people in the cities would self-organize carpools on the weekends to their hometowns because traveling by plane was expensive and commuting by bus was a hassle.
Tripda formalized and improved upon this process.
“Tripda took these groups to a whole new level, implementing several safety and privacy features, like the rating system for car owners and riders, and the ‘Ladies Only’ trips, where female car owners can choose to carpool only with other women in their cars,” Coser said.
Tripda grew further once the team began promoting the platform at universities, and young people started to use it as a solution to go to out of town events, like music festivals.
“Because of this good traction, we received a follow-up investment from Rocket and other investors to scale up our operation in Brazil and take the concept abroad,” Coser said.
Tripda is now in 13 countries across Latin America, Asia, and the United States.
To the Philippines
As part of Tripda’s international expansion, Coser launched the firm in the Philippines.
While Coser acknowledges that Filipinos may not be used to carpooling, he is quick to point out the advantages it offers over the other more common forms of transportation.
“Because it's safer than a bus, cheaper than a taxi, more comfortable than the LRT/MRT, and a much more pleasant experience than all of them,” Coser said, adding that there is also a social advantage – car owners and commuters can experience the serendipity of meeting new people and striking friendships with them.
Users can offer rides and book seats through the Tripda website as well as through Android and iOS apps. This partly explains why Coser expects that Tripda’s early adopters will be young people.
“Our first target demographic are university students and young professionals because we find that they are most open to new ideas, they value their money, and they are the trendsetters for society, cultural and behavior wise,” he said.
According to Coser, this demographic is also most likely to enjoy the social element of carpooling through Tripda.
At first glance, Tripda may seem to compete with the likes of car-hailing app Uber and taxi-hailing apps EasyTaxi and GrabTaxi, but Coser suggests otherwise. He says that those apps are on-demand transportation services. In contrast, Tripda rides need to be booked in advance.
“People going to work every day know the route he/she is going to make and can book a ride beforehand using Tripda to have a much better commute,” Coser said. “The same applies for long-distance carpooling, where people usually plan their trips at least one day in advance.”
In keeping with this idea, Coser sees Tripda as a community for people-to-people carpooling and not a commercial service. “We don’t allow people to offer rides in Tripda to have profit from it – we are connecting real people driving to work, university or traveling long distances, that happen to have spare seats in their cars and connecting them with people willing to go the same way,” he said.
Carpooling as a solution
Using the Tripda platform for both offering rides or booking seats is currently free. The company is focused on growing its user base, but may monetize in the future via a booking fee or advertisements.
Filipinos may not be naturally inclined to carpool, given our distrust of strangers, but Coser has a plan to address such cultural barriers.
Apart from targeting young people in general, the company hosts #RoadTripda’s every other week. This campaign involves taking road trips outside of Metro Manila and giving freebies and incentives like free accommodations, beach kits, drinks, or gas to those that offer or take rides via the platform.
The company also implemented several safety features in the platform itself. The company, for one, has a Facebook-enabled log-in, allowing users to see other users’ profile picture and number of friends, and you can also see their ratings from other users.
Coser sees carpooling as the long-term solution for the problems that this traffic congestion causes.
The enrichment of some of the urban population in the last 20 years led to many car purchases, but the government has lacked the agility to upgrade public transportation infrastructure. “All of this has culminated with streets flooded with single-person-vehicles,” he said.
The vision might seem completely farfetched, but Coser is quick to reference similar platforms that have now gained mass adoption.
“If this seems too crazy, just imagine how absurd was 10 years ago the idea of staying at a stranger’s house when traveling,” he said. “Nowadays people check Airbnb website to get an unused room at someone’s house just like they check Agoda or TripAdvisor to book a hotel room.”
“We want people to think in carpooling when deciding how they are going to work,” Coser said. “To consider getting a ride on Tripda to travel to Baguio, just like they consider getting a bus nowadays.” – Rappler.com
Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz is also the chief content officer at ZipMatch, a tech company backed by Ideaspace Foundation, Hatchd Digital, IMJ Investment Partners, and 500 Startups. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz
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